The following signs may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect.

The child:

  • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention
  • Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
  • Lacks adult supervision
  • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
  • Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home
  • Is reluctant to be around a particular person
  • Discloses maltreatment

The parent/caregiver:

  • Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child’s problems in school or at home
  • Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
  • Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
  • Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of the parent’s emotional needs
  • Shows little concern for the child

The parent/caregiver and child:

  • Rarely touch or look at each other
  • Consider their relationship entirely negative
  • State that they do not like each other

The above list may not be all the signs of abuse or neglect. It is important to pay attention to other behaviors that may seem unusual or concerning. In addition to these signs and symptoms, Child Welfare Information Gateway provides information on the risk factors and perpetrators of child abuse and neglect fatalities: https://www.